Pater noster qui es in coelis
Family Marks 45th Anniversary of the Death of “Father of Who’s Who Online”
On Wednesday, February 15, 2017 the family of James J. McCabe marked the 45th anniversary of his death in 1972. Both the patriarch of his family and later acknowledged as the “Father of Who’s Who Online,” Jim was both a New York State bar-admitted attorney as well as in operations management with AT&T’s Longlines Division for over 25 years. He was a member of the Telephone Pioneers of America, an in-house group for what was then known simply as “the phone company.“
In the 1960s, he participated in a multi-week training program in Cooperstown, New York that focused on the application of AT&T’s newly-created UNIX operating system in the telecommunications sphere. Due to AT&T’s monopoly status in telephony, there were regulatory restrictions preventing “the phone company” from commercializing UNIX, and they chose instead to make it available to the educational community leading to, for example, to the BDS UNIX distribution from the University of California at Berkeley.
When his son John, then in high school, asked in conversation what he was studying there, he offered an explanation in terms of a pipe and how, if you used the pipe to carry your voice (what the world now knows to represent “analog” – or wave based - signals) you would need the whole capacity of the pipe to transmit the voice to the other end. However, he went on to explain more abstractly, that if you broke up the signals at the speaking end, and reassembled them instantaneously on the hearing end, you could fill the entire capacity of the pipe with packets of transmitted data (“digital” signals), finally adding that you could send not only voice, but any data.
This being the 1960s, the question came back to him, "Data, what’s data?" He replied that anything can be data but, to a typical high school student of that era when the transistor radio was the big new thing, it was difficult to even think of doing anything but talk on the phone. Jim was ultimately recruited by Western Union as their Director / Traffic Operations in the late 1960s, a position for which AT&T’s Cooperstown training was a prerequisite.
Why Western Union? In the 1920s and 1930s, Western Union was a telegraph operator which also provided stock ticker feeds to brokerage firms on Wall Street, representing an early precursor to the Bloomberg terminal. During the war years, many families received telegrams from the U.S. Defense Department offering the condolences and appreciation of a grateful nation for the loss of a beloved son, brother, or father in World War II and later the Korean War.
While Western Union’s legacy business remained primarily message transmission and delivery, it is today a global financial services company, wiring money all around the world. The time that Jim worked with them is viewed as an inflection point for the company, getting them started on the the highly-technical and proprietary path to point-to-point secure messaging and establishing a global business in-house.
Western Union that was ready to capitalize on the Internet explosion (as wu.com) resulting from the creation of the open-standards-based World Wide Web (www.) in the 1990’s. The timing proved quite fortuitous for the company, since this coincided with the rise of the fax machine, which eventually was to bury the telex machine in its wake (and, in turn, to be buried itself by internet email capabilities such as attachments in the following decades).
Diagnosed with cancer around the time of his Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1971, Jim McCabe died six months later leaving his wife Margaret T. (Brown), and seven children ranging in age from seven to twenty-three (Marian, Mark, Gerard, Joseph, John, James, and Margaret). He is interred in St. Anthony Cemetery in Nanuet, New York, next to his bride Margaret, who was laid to rest again at his side in July 2010.
Fast forward to the 1990’s, and son John is listening to some talking-heads on television discussing the Internet. When the expert says, “Think of a pipe. Now, if you used the pipe to carry your voice then you would need the whole pipe to send the signal. But, if you broke up the signal at the input end, and reassembled it instantaneously at the receiving end, you could fill the entire capacity of the pipe with transmitted signals.” The words resonated and, albeit a quarter of a century later, with them came the realization that what his father had been explaining in the 1960s was “data packet switching,” which had now evolved into the foundation of the Internet (or, as it is now written, internet).
This recognition in the 1990s that the internet/www was the fruition of what his father had spoken to him about in the 1960s gave a decades-long perspective to the progression of events and, as among the first to jump onto the Internet bandwagon, John was the original registrant of the whoswho.com domain in 1994. He launched the Who’s Who Online®website in 1995, over 21 years ago.
Today, with the explosion of devices and “the internet of things” coming into being, growth in the next 20 years will no doubt be exponential. The underlying Domain Name System (DNS) is predicated upon names being easier to recall than numbers, and provides “lookup tables” that (A) translate domain names into numbers (such as google.com mapping to 18.104.22.168 – either of which keyed into your address bar brings up the google.com webpage); and (B) allow full portability with absolutely no need to notify users, because the public google.com side NEVER changes, but the Internet Protocol (IP) address can be changed – invisibly to the end user - to any other valid IP address seamlessly, at-will.
That is the value of having one’s own domain because with any yourname.whoswho domain, comes the capacity to do anything with it that Google can do on google.com, funds and know-how permitting. This is why free-mail providers such as gmail.com and outlook.com allow users to map the POP3 email settings to retrieve and send mail using the popular free email interfaces that users have become familiar with over time,
allowing users to both send and receive via those accounts under the individual’s personal domain identity (eg., email@example.com). This provides the freedom to switch to another provider/platform of choice without having to change email addresses, in much the same way as google.com can change its IP address, seamlessly and at-will.
Since 2014, when ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) delegated the new .whoswho generic Top Level Domain to the root of the internet, Who’s Who Online has been responsible for Worldwide Outreach. Internet registrars interested in becoming .whoswho Accredited Registrars are invited to call 1-800-WHOSWHO within the USA, or +1 212-877-8900 internationally, or to write to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a Registry-Registrar Agreement (RRA). End users wishing to reserve a domain name for their exclusive registration are also invited to call for personal assistance.